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Astros, Olsson, Castellanos getting breakthrough with 2 strikes


HOUSTON – For Yuli Gurriel and the Houston Astros, the fight is on when the count reaches two strikes.

There is nothing complicated in their success.

Manager Dusty Baker said, “You should be proud. You should be proud of it, like when you were a kid playing strikeout with your little brother. They say strikes aren’t important, but you see how many games we have.” Won just by playing the ball.”

The Astros are at the top of the AL West, and their two-strike approach is a vital part of one of baseball’s best lineups. Gurrill leads the Chiefs with a .291 batting average with two strikes in play on Wednesday, and teammates Michael Brantley (.267) and Yordan Alvarez (.252) round out the top six on the list. The Bakers Club has a league-best .205 team batting average with two strikes – easily clearing the MLB average of .161.

While strikeouts, spin rates and sticky substances have been the talk of baseball this year, Gurrill & Co. are among a group of hitters who are still struggling hard enough with two strikes.

“I was taught that you get more aggressive with two strikes because you don’t leave it to the umpire,” said Baker, a former big league outfielder. “So, you search for the ball. One of the keys is not to guess. You see people guessing on your team or on other teams and many times they are destined for something they actually Can’t hit – a good breaking ball.”

Guriel hit .216 in 2020 with two strikes. He said he had a lot of trouble with those calculations last year, so he worked on his approach in the off-season.

He said through an interpreter, “At times with a 3-2 count or any two-strike count, I was taking like a home swing and not really paying attention to what the position was. is.” “So this year I have worked on shortening my swing up with two strikes and I think that has helped a lot.”

Houston’s move to Wednesday’s game against Baltimore on June 19-8 includes a four-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox, the dominant AL Central, who lost their best two-strike hitter when Nick Madrigal broke his right hamstring on June 9. tore off. Madrigal hits .284 inches this year on two strike counts.

“It’s the mindset. From pitch to pitch, I really don’t think it changes,” Madrigal said. “It doesn’t matter if there’s one strike or two strikes or there are many strikes, I treat every pitch the same . For me personally, it works. I don’t know if it will work for everyone.”

With his 5-foot-8 frame and elite bat-to-ball prowess, Madrigal is a return to a bygone era, before three true results—home runs, walks and strikeouts—captured baseball. Like Los Angeles Angels fielder David Fletcher, who led the Majors in 2020 with a .322 batting average on a two-strike count.

But some sluggers are also finding success on the verge of striking.

Gurrill also leads baseball with a .406 on-base percentage with two strikes. Oakland Athletics first baseman Matt Olson, listed at 6-5 and 225 pounds, has a big league-best .478 slugging percentage in such positions.

“I think there’s a lot that goes into it,” Olsson said. “I think my swing is in better shape right now, and it’s leading to some better two-strike results.”

Olsson is choking on his bat in the spot after experimenting with changes in the off-season.

“I tried it, and I liked how it looked,” he said. “It’s not something I’m necessarily married to, but for now, it’s good and working.”

Cincinnati Reds outfielder Nick Castellanos is one of the early contenders for the NL MVP, and hitting two-strike is a big reason. He is ranked eighth in the Majors with a batting average of .245 in such conditions.

Castellanos scored seven runs during Monday’s 12-4 win over Philadelphia, capping the performance with an RBI double on a 0-2 pitch from Eniel de los Santos.

Reds manager David Bell said, “I think this year as a team I would say that we have improved over the last season, not really trying to do too much with two strikes and play the ball. To make it simpler to think in.”

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Cohen reported from Chicago. AP Baseball Writer Jenny McCauley and AP Sports Writer Mitch Stacy also contributed to this report.

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More AP MLB coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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